The Winter from Hell for British Stockmen

I have just returned from a couple of weeks spent lambing up in the Scottish Borders – this is mainly why there have not been any fresh blog articles for a while for which I apologise. I shared for a little bit in the worries and hard graft that sheep farmers go through at lambing time every year. However, this year in the UK, for the West of Scotland in particular, it has been a peculiarly difficult time. Not only has the dreaded Schmallenberg virus extended its grip but the UK has faced one of the coldest and certainly snowiest winters in many years. Unrivalled numbers of stock have been lost, perishing on hillsides and livelihoods have suffered.

Sheep stuck in Snow. Available at

We had during the course of my time lambing about twenty or so dead lambs and four or five ewes, amongst a total of about five or six hundred ewes. Not bad statistics but this is because we were lambing inside. When the dead stock man came to pick up the ones we had lost he told stories of lambs freezing to death and ewes having to survive on their own wool in drifts before perishing. Whole flocks have been decimated.

The cost to the industry is going to be significant and the Scottish government has already been pushed to provide extra support to hill farmers this year. Without such support the economic cost will equal the mental strain that the winter has caused farmers so far. It is times like these that we need to support the rural community.

At least in Scotland the rural community is prominent and agriculture is significantly supported as an industry. In England and Wales it could be said to be sidelined often and this needs to change. This may be heading off on a tangent from the subject but it is an issue that we need to face up to. With reformation of CAP and austerity living on in Britain as well as other places we shouldn’t forget that farming is a tough business that relies almost completely on good weather conditions. The theme of this subject cuts deep into the debate around subsidies – it is exactly because of conditions like those we have seen in northern Britain and Ireland this winter that we need Europe to continue to subsidise our food production.

Comments on experiences this winter would be very welcome.

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